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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Detroit & Cleveland Nav. Co., 326 U.S. 236 (1945)

United States v. Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co.

No. 22

Argued October 9, 10, 1945

Decided November 5, 1945

326 U.S. 236


Application was made to the Interstate Commerce Commission under § 309(c) of Part III of the Interstate Commerce Act for a certificate of convenience and necessity to operate as common carriers of motor vehicles by water on the Great Lakes. It was opposed by appellees, who had been engaged in such service before the war. The Government had requisitioned many vessels of the appellees, leaving two of them with no automobile carriers and the third with only nine vessels, five of which were owned by and operated for the Government. Applicants owned, free of encumbrance, three vessels which had been used extensively before the war as automobile carriers, mostly under charter to one of the appellees. They had been converted for carrying bulk traffic, but could readily be reconverted to handle automobile traffic. The Commission found that, before the war, there were insufficient facilities for this purpose during peak periods, that there had been a definite need for the carrying capacity of applicants' vessels, that there was a reasonable certainty that a like need would arise when production of automobiles for civilians was resumed, that there was considerable uncertainty as to the time it would take for appellees to procure additional vessels and place them in operation, and that the public interest would be adversely affected if appellees were delayed in acquiring the additional facilities needed. It held that the proposed service would be required by future public convenience and necessity, and granted the certificate. Its action was challenged by appellees.


1. The Commission acted within its statutory authority and administrative discretion in granting the certificate. P. 326 U. S. 241.

2. A positive finding by the Commission of an actual inability of existing carriers to acquire the necessary facilities to meet future transportation needs is not a prerequisite to the granting of such a certificate. P. 326 U. S. 240.

3. The Commission has been entrusted with a wide range of discretionary authority in determining whether to grant such certificates. P. 326 U. S. 241. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 326 U. S. 237

4. Its function is not only to appraise the facts and draw inferences from them, but also to exercise an expert judgment and to determine from its analysis of the total situation on which side of the controversy the public interest lies. P. 326 U. S. 241.

5. It is entitled to consider the margin of safety which the public interest requires for the resumption of a interrupted service, and it has discretion to conclude that future shipping needs should be assured, rather than left uncertain. Pp. 326 U. S. 240-241.

57 F.Supp. 81 reversed.

Appeal from a decree of a district court of three judges setting aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission granting a certificate of convenience and necessity to operate as common carriers of motor vehicles by water on the Great Lakes.

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